Alfred Sisley (/ËsÉªsli/; French:Â [sislÉ]; 30 October 1839 â" 29 January 1899) was an Impressionist landscape painter who was born and spent most of his life in France, but retained British citizenship. He was the most consistent of the Impressionists in his dedication to painting landscape en plein air (i.e., outdoors). He deviated into figure painting only rarely and, unlike Renoir and Pissarro, found that Impressionism fulfilled his artistic needs.
Among his important works are a series of paintings of the River Thames, mostly around Hampton Court, executed in 1874, and landscapes depicting places in or near Moret-sur-Loing. The notable paintings of the Seine and its bridges in the former suburbs of Paris are like many of his landscapes, characterized by tranquility, in pale shades of green, pink, purple, dusty blue and cream. Over the years Sisley's power of expression and color intensity increased.
Sisley was born in Paris to affluent British parents. His father, William Sisley, was in the silk business, and his mother Felicia Sell was a cultivated music connoisseur.
In 1857 at the age of 18, Sisley was sent to London to study for a career in business, but he abandoned it after four years and returned to Paris in 1861. From 1862, he studied at the Paris Ãcole des Beaux-Arts within the atelier of Swiss artist Marc-Charles-Gabriel Gleyre, where he became acquainted with FrÃ©dÃ©ric Bazille, Claude Monet, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Together they would paint landscapes en plein air rather than in the studio, in order to realistically capture the transient effects of sunlight. This approach, innovative at the time, resulted in paintings more colorful and more broadly painted than the public was accustomed to seeing. Consequently, Sisley and his friends initially had few opportunities to exhibit or sell their work. Their works were usually rejected by the jury of the most important art exhibition in France, the annual Salon. During the 1860s, though, Sisley was in a better financial position than some of his fellow artists, as he received an allowance from his father.
In 1866, Sisley began a relationship with EugÃ©nie Lesouezec (1834â"1898; also known as Marie Lescouezec), a Breton living in Paris. The couple had two children: son Pierre (born 1867) and daughter Jeanne (1869). At the time, Sisley lived not far from Avenue de Clichy and the CafÃ© Guerbois, the gathering-place of many Parisian painters.
In 1868, his paintings were accepted at the Salon, but the exhibition did not bring him financial or critical success; nor did subsequent exhibitions.
In 1870 the Franco-Prussian War began, and as a result Sisley's father's business failed and the painter's sole means of support became the sale of his works. For the remainder of his life he would live in poverty, as his paintings did not rise significantly in monetary value until after his death. Occasionally, however, Sisley would be backed by patrons; and this allowed him, among other things, to make a few brief trips to Britain.
The first of these occurred in 1874 after the first independent Impressionist exhibition. The result of a few months spent near London was a series of nearly twenty paintings of the Upper Thames near Molesey, which was later described by art historian Kenneth Clark as "a perfect moment of Impressionism."
Until 1880, Sisley lived and worked in the country west of Paris; then he and his family moved to a small village near Moret-sur-Loing, close to the forest of Fontainebleau, where the painters of the Barbizon school had worked earlier in the century. Here, as art historian Anne Poulet has said, "the gentle landscapes with their constantly changing atmosphere were perfectly attuned to his talents. Unlike Monet, he never sought the drama of the rampaging ocean or the brilliantly colored scenery of the CÃ´te d'Azur."
In 1881 Sisley made a second brief voyage to Britain.
In 1897 Sisley and his partner visited Britain again, and were finally married in Cardiff Register Office on 5 August. They stayed at Penarth, where Sisley painted at least six oils of the sea and the cliffs. In mid-August they moved to the Osborne Hotel at Langland Bay on the Gower Peninsula, where he produced at least eleven oil paintings in and around Langland Bay and Rotherslade Bay (then called Lady's Cove). They returned to France in October. This was Sisley's last voyage to his ancestral homeland. The National Museum Cardiff possesses two of his oil paintings of Penarth and Langland.
The following year Sisley applied for French citizenship, but was refused. A second application was made and supported by a police report, but illness intervened, and Sisley remained British till his death.
The painter died on 29 January 1899 in Moret-sur-Loing at the age of 59, a few months after the death of his wife.
Sisley's student works are lost. His earliest known work, Lane near a Small Town, is believed to have been painted around 1864. His first landscape paintings are sombre, coloured with dark browns, greens, and pale blues. They were often executed at Marly and Saint-Cloud. Little is known about Sisley's relationship with the paintings of J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, which he may have seen in London, but some have suggested that these artists may have influenced his development as an Impressionist painter, as may have Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot.
Among the Impressionists, Sisley has been overshadowed by Monet, whose work his resembles in style and subject matter, although Sisley's effects are more subdued. Described by art historian Robert Rosenblum as having "almost a generic character, an impersonal textbook idea of a perfect Impressionist painting", his work strongly invokes atmosphere, and his skies are always impressive. He concentrated on landscape more consistently than any other Impressionist painter.
Among Sisley's best-known works are Street in Moret and Sand Heaps, both owned by the Art Institute of Chicago, and The Bridge at Moret-sur-Loing, shown at MusÃ©e d'Orsay, Paris. AllÃ©e des peupliers de Moret (The Lane of Poplars at Moret) has been stolen three times from the MusÃ©e des Beaux-Arts in Nice - once in 1978 when on loan in Marseilles (recovered a few days later in the city's sewers), again in 1998 (when the museum's curator was convicted of the theft and jailed for five years with two accomplices) and finally in August 2007 (on 4 June 2008 French police recovered it and three other stolen paintings from a van in Marseilles).
A large number of fake Sisleys have been discovered. Sisley produced some 900 oil paintings, some 100 pastels and many other drawings, although he only lived to be 59 years old.
- Lane near a Small Town (c. 1864)
- Avenue of Chestnut Trees near La Celle-Saint-Cloud (c. 1865)
- Village Street in Marlotte (1866)
- Avenue of Chestnut Trees near La Celle-Saint-Cloud (1867)
- Still Life with Heron (1867)
- The Seine at St. Mammes (1867â"69)
- View of Montmartre from the cite des Fleurs (1869)
- Early Snow at Louveciennes (c. 1871â"72)
- Boulevard Heloise, Argenteuil (1872)
- Bridge at Villeneuve-la-Garenne (1872)
- Ferry to the Ile-de-la-Loge - Flood (1872)
- Footbridge at Argenteuil (1872)
- La Grande-Rue, Argenteuil (c. 1872)
- Square in Argenteuil (Rue de la Chaussee) (1872)
- Chemin de la Machine Louveciennes (1873)
- Factory in the Flood, Bougival (1873)
- Rue de la Princesse, Louveciennes (1873)
- Sentier de la Mi-cote, Louveciennes (1873)
- Among the Vines Louveciennes (1874)
- Bridge at Hampton Court (1874)
- The Lesson (1874)
- Molesey Weir - Morning (1874)
- Regatta at Hampton Court (1874)
- Regatta at Molesey (1874)
- Snow on the Road Louveciennes (1874)
- Under the Bridge at Hampton Court (1874)
- Street in Louveciennes (Rue de la Princesse) (1875)
- The Terrace at Saint-Germain, Spring (1875)
- "The Terrace at Saint-Germain, Spring" (1875)
- Small Meadows in Spring (c. 1881)
- Le Port de Moret-sur-Loing: Le soir (1884)
- The Loing at Saint-MammÃ¨s (1885), MusÃ©e Malraux, Le Havre
- Storr Rock, Lady's Cove, le soir (1897)
- On the cliffs, Langland Bay (1897)
- Bomford, David, Jo Kirby, John Leighton, Ashok Roy, and Raymond White (1990). Impressionism. London: National Gallery. ISBN 0-300-05035-6
- Daulte, F. (1959). Alfred Sisley Catalogue raisonnee de l'oeuvre peint
- Denvir, B. (2000). The Chronicle of Impressionism: An Intimate DIary of the Lives and World of the Great Artists. London: Thames & Hudson. OCLC 43339405
- Poulet, A. L., & Murphy, A. R. (1979). Corot to Braque: French Paintings from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston: The Museum. ISBN 0-87846-134-5
- Reed, Nicholas, (2008). Sisley on the Thames and the Welsh Coast. Lilburne Press. ISBN 978-1-901167-20-7
- Rosenblum, Robert (1989). Paintings in the MusÃ©e d'Orsay. New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang. ISBN 1-55670-099-7
- Turner, J. (2000). From Monet to CÃ©zanne: late 19th-century French artists. Grove Art. New York: St Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-22971-2
- Alfred Sisley.org
- Paintings by Sisley
- Sisley images and biography at CGFA
- The Impressionists at Biography at the Wayback Machine (archived March 6, 2005)